Saturday, November 25, 2006

Whistling Dixie

It cracks me up how people from the Northeast/East/San Francisco are still scared/disdainful of people from the South. People from the Midwest and "real" West (i.e., not Portland or Seattle) don't seem to have similar difficulties, probably because they've been brought up to not be snots!

When I was in grad school in San Francisco in the mid-'90s, I overheard two girls behind me on the bus: "I was offered a scholarship to the University of Texas, but I don't want to live in TEXAS!" (I suppose I should have turned around and offered her the comforting, "Austin isn't like the rest of Texas," but I didn't quite have the energy to placate her timid soul.)

And, just recently, I've come across people mocking the fact that George W. might've actually BEEN to a rodeo (this after he was quoted, a la Faye Dunaway in "Mommie Dearest": "This ain't my first time at the rodeo."). ACTUALLY been to a rodeo?? Oh my goodness! Similarly, people online seem shocked, just shocked, that others have actually shot guns! Apparently discounting the fact that some of us were bored while growing up in the country and occasionally sat out by the pond and aimed at stuff! (I wonder, also, how many of the Easterners had parents who grew up in the country and actually had to shit in outhouses. Seems mighty strange today. But my dad, for instance, was born in 1940 to a poor family in East Texas. He grew up wearing overalls, going barefoot, and, yes, shitting in an outhouse. This reminds me of Courtney Love's statement years ago, about her and Kurt Cobain, that if your family has never been forced to apply for government cheese, you just don't get it. I'll add this: If you've never had to go to a pawn-shop...)

While I'm sometimes appalled by some things about my home state of Texas (voting Republican, for instance), one thing I really like about it, and the people here (at least, the old-school people, NOT the modern-day dumb-ass party "Dallas girls/guys"), is the general sense of non-bullshit and the taking of people as they come. For instance, I'm a gay woman and I could go to my family's annual East Texas reunion with a big butch black woman as my companion, and people would talk to her like a real person. They'd gossip like hell afterwards, of course, but they'd be genuinely interested in talking to her, and me, and finding out about us. Whereas, if I took my hypothetical Big Black Butch Lover to a cocktail party in Chelsea, we'd have an hour or so of extreme politeness about our opinions on the latest play. Followed by gossiping like hell afterwards. Which is more "real"?

Why this small-town Southern yearn for non-bullshit honesty doesn't transfer over into a larger public policy or voting trend, I don't know. My guess is that some people are sick of being told they're stupid and react accordingly against the outsiders making judgments. Here's a quote from the Ken Burns documentary on the Civil War, which might explain the mentality a bit: When asked why he was fighting, one regular, poor (non-slave-owning) soldier replied, "Because y'all are down here."

In news that bodes well (in an odd way---look, I'm desperate!) for the future of the South politically, I just read an interview with extremely popular country star Tim McGraw in the East-coast magazine "Vanity Fair," in which he mentioned the disparity between the classes in the US, and said that he was a populist Democrat...It's going to take some big "down-home" names like that to make being a Democrat acceptable again.


Anonymous said...

Texas Sucks!

Anonymous said...

Bush ruined Texas for ya'all!

Beth Austin said...

Probably the Dallas Kennedy assassination did the ruining first...Texas is torn: Is it an Independent Western state, or a backward Southern state? It's leaned so much more toward the latter for the past 30 years (unfortunately).

Anonymous said...

I know, I miss that about Texas, too. When I was younger and weirder-looking, people used to think I was fun and "neat." Now here in S.F. everyone else is weird and I'm hopelessly "normal" with my Beach Boys CDs in hand and Vans on my feet. This weekend, however, I'm getting some COWBOY BOOTS and I can't wait to see the look on my co-worker's faces.

P.S. I just got in a huge argument online with a bunch of people over the Confederate flag. Did you know that some people find it a symbol of RACISM? Sad, but true.